Women Employees Abused at Arizona Prison, Civil Rights Agencies Charged
PHOENIX - The GEO Group, Inc., a prison management company, will pay a total of $140,000 to two women and furnish other relief to settle a sexual harassment lawsuit filed by the Arizona Civil Rights Division (ACRD) and the U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC), the agencies announced today. In a successful collaboration between the EEOC and ACRD, the case was co-litigated by the two law enforcement civil rights agencies. GEO is a large private corporation headquartered in Boca Raton, Fla., that runs over a hundred private prison facilities across the country.
The EEOC and ACRD alleged that GEO had an extreme tolerance for sexual harassment at a prison facility (Florence West) in Florence, Ariz. More specifically, the EEOC and ACRD alleged that male managers at GEO sexually harassed numerous female employees and fostered an atmosphere of sexual intimidation and harassment. The sexual harassment included serious verbal harassment and physical harassment of the female employees. For example, the agencies contended that one supervisor grabbed a female subordinate, forced himself on top of her, and forcibly tried to kiss her. They also alleged that another supervisor routinely made crude, obscene and suggestive sexual remarks. The EEOC and ACRD said that comments like these were made by supervisors, were frequent and were often made in front of other management officials, who did nothing to stop the harassment.
Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 protects workers from discrimination based upon sex, including sexual harassment, and from retaliation. The EEOC and ACRD filed suit in U.S. District Court for the District of Arizona (EEOC and ACRD v. The Geo Group, Inc., CV10-1995-PHX-SRB).
A jury trial started on Tuesday, April 23, and the case at trial was settled when Judge Susan R. Bolton signed the consent decree on Friday, April 26.
In prior rulings in this case, the court had dismissed claims for several women on procedural grounds and had ruled the EEOC and ACRD could not seek relief on behalf of several other women who had worked at GEO's Florence West and CACF facilities. The consent decree specifically allows the EEOC and ACRD to appeal those prior rulings.
In addition to the monetary relief of $140,000 for two harassment victims who remained in the case after the court's prior rulings and one separate settlement, the three-year consent decree settling the suit requires that GEO:
The decree also has an injunction against sexual harassment and retaliation, which includes notice posting and promises to not rehire two prior supervisors.
"Managers must constantly be reminded of their obligation to maintain workplaces where employees are not subjected to illegal harassment or retaliation," said Rose Daly-Rooney, lead counsel for the ACRD. "Where managers fail to satisfy these obligations, it is the employer's responsibility to correct the violations and prevent other violations from occurring. These women and all women deserve to work without being harassed because of their sex."
Richard Sexton, lead counsel for the EEOC, said, "Employers should be on notice that merely having anti-harassment policies is not sufficient to avoid Title VII liability. Employers must be committed to a workplace free of sexual harassment, a commitment that can be demonstrated by appropriate training, policies, and real enforcement of those policies."
Rayford Irvin, district director of the EEOC's Phoenix District Office, added, "When employers permit sexual harassment to occur in the workplace, they are violating federal law. The EEOC will continue to aggressively pursue employers who fail to prevent or promptly correct sexual harassment at their workplaces."
Preventing workplace harassment through systemic litigation and investigation is one of the six national priorities identified by the Commission's Strategic Enforcement Plan (SEP).
The EEOC enforces federal laws prohibiting employment discrimination. The EEOC's Phoenix District Office has jurisdiction for Arizona, Colorado, Utah, Wyoming, and part of New Mexico (including Albuquerque). Further information about the EEOC is available on its web site at www.eeoc.gov.
The ACRD enforces Arizona statutes prohibiting employment discrimination, as well as discrimination in housing, public accommodations and voting. The ACRD has offices in Phoenix and Tucson. Further information about the ACRD is
available on the Arizona Attorney General's web site at www.azag.gov/civil-rights.